ONCE upon a time a leopard and a goat were great friends, and they lived together, and the leopard had two little cubs and the goat had two little kids, and the children played together and were very happy. But every day the kids grew fatter and fatter, and every day the cubs grew thinner and thinner, and the leopard became very jealous and began to hate the goat.
At last she thought of a wicked plan; she said to the goat: "My cousins who live across the valley are making a big feast this afternoon and I have promised them a surprise; will you go to the barkcloth makers and buy me a very beautiful cloth to wear at the feast?"
While the goat was away the leopard caught the two little kids and tied their mouths to keep them from crying out, and made them into a parcel packed in wide banana-leaves tied up with fibre, and he brought the parcel and put it down in the courtyard.
Now the wild cat and the guinea-fowl were great friends and they often visited the leopard and the goat, and it so happened that they were passing through the garden and saw what the leopard did, but they hid behind a tree and said nothing.
When the leopard returned to the house they followed her as if they had only just arrived, and the leopard greeted them and told them about the feast.
Just then the goat returned, and the leopard took the barkcloth and went to dress.
Then the wild cat and the guinea-fowl told the goat what they had seen in the garden, and they all three went quickly to the parcel and released the poor little kids, and they caught the leopard cubs and tied them up, and put them into a parcel, and put the parcel back where it was before in the courtyard.
When the leopard was dressed in the new barkcloth she came in feeling very grand, and said to the goat:
"Will you carry that parcel for me? It is my contribution to the feast, and a great surprise for my cousins." So the goat took up the parcel, and the wild cat and the guinea-fowl said:
"We will go with you across the valley."
As they went they asked each other riddles.
The goat asked: "What is it that goes the same journey every day?" And the wild cat guessed: "The sun."
Then she asked: "What is it that has no feet and yet travels all over the country?" And the guinea-fowl guessed: "Dried fish."
Then she asked a riddle: "In what land are there no women, only men?" This they discussed for some time, and the guinea-fowl told them: "A patch of Indian corn," for all the corn cobs have long beards, like old men. The wild cat didn't think this a very good riddle; but the goat did.
The leopard guessed nothing, and being rather cross, she said:
"You all think you are very clever to-day." And the goat said:
"We are cleverer to-day than we have ever been before, but we shall have to be cleverer still before the sun goes down."
When they reached the village across the valley the leopard said to his cousins:
"I have brought you a most beautiful stew; it must be cooked just as it is, tied up in banana-leaves. Do not open it until it is cooked, and you will be very surprised when you see the contents."
So they put the parcel into a big cooking-pot, and the three friends ran very quickly home, and the wild cat and the guinea-fowl helped the goat pack up all her things, and they took the two little kids and fled to the forest and made a new home there, for they knew now that the leopard hated them and would kill them all when she found out the trick they had played her.
Meanwhile at the leopard's feast the guests were getting hungry, and at last the stew was cooked, and they all sat down and undid the parcel, wondering what the great surprise would be, and what did they see but two poor little cooked leopard cubs.
They were very angry with the leopard and said: "You heartless creature to cook your own children." The leopard cried:
"I did not cook them, the goat has played me a trick; let us go and kill her and her kids."
So all the leopards went across the valley with their cousin, but the goat and her kids had gone away long before they reached the house, and they never caught them, and since that day leopards and goats have hated each other.
Afterwards the wild cat and the guinea-fowl had a quarrel, and became enemies, but that is rather a spiteful story, so I won't tell it to you; they said dreadful things to each other which are best forgotten.